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Sunday, July 16, 2017

2017 Africa Reading Challenge

5 books from, or about, this continent.  That's the only rule.
Here's the site that focuses on blogging about literature and poetry from Africa, which is something we all need more of in our life.

And here are my 5 books (so far) for 2017:

Ngugi Wa Thiong'o grew up in Kiambu county, Kenya, very close to where we live.  He was born in 1938, making him a near contemporary of my own parents.  Reading the history of Kenya as an eye witness account through the eyes of a child is well worth the effort.  I prefer his novels, such as The River Between, for writing style.  However this book offers an important alternative history that contrasts with the more popular accounts of the colonists.  As an American doctor working in Kenya with a mission agency, it is important to me to acknowledge that the history of white people in Kenya is permeated with terrible injustice and tragedy, even if sprinkled with courageous health care and education.  Thiong'o recognizes the struggle of Kenyans to speak, to control, their own education and future.  Worth the read.

This read I can best describe as painful truth.  Gyasi tells the sweeping epic of hundreds of years of history by following two branches of a fictional family through generations, until they meet again.  The chapters are named for key characters in the lineage, and she uses certain images of water and fire to connect the stories.  The author is Ghanian-American woman, and a very very talented writer.  She deftly weaves West Africa with the story of enslaved people brought to America, both in the South and in Harlem.  As hard as the stories are, she draws you in with her empathetic ear for dialogue and her vivid descriptions.  The sexuality in this novel is mostly violent or tragic.  She does not gloss over the horrors of war and slavery.  This is not an easy read.  However the ending I found hopeful. My favorite genre is "dark and redemptive" and this novel fits.  Because that's the story of the world.

This book is a collection of short stories that read like a chat around the campfire.  Arensen grew up in Tanzania and Kenya and then worked in Sudan.  He draws upon a lifetime of adventures to paint life in East Africa in its beauty and drama.  This is a generally positive view of this part of the world.  Arensen can be funny, and he has a real talent for taking what seem like normal incidents of daily life and making them interesting enough to read in a book.  Some of his family still live near Naivasha, which makes this even more of a treat.

I have to admit that I ordered this book hoping for another meaty, long read by Adichie ( I did notice the price was surprisingly good, so that should have been a clue, and mine didn't have the nice red tag "short" on the cover).  I read Americanah a few years ago, and some of her other books prior, and wanted more.  Instead it is a very tiny volume that basically reprints a TED talk.  That said, I think it's worth a quick read.  Feminism from an African standpoint is survival.  It is about justice.  It is where the rubber meets the road in the Gospel stories.  She is forthright and sensible and thought provoking.   Nigerians and Indians are saving the English language in my opinion, the greatest talents are coming from those countries.  This isn't lyrical like her novels, but still a good short read to listen to another's opinion and story.

Surprise!  The last one by me.  Sincerely I have read this book about five times in the last few months of editing, so it definitely counts, even though the publication date is still just over a month away. Quality literature written in and set in Africa, about contemporary continental challenges, with African kids as heroes, needs a wider audience.  Please buy a few and send them to your local library or school, or give them to your kids or grandkids.  This is the third in the Rwendigo Tales series.  Each book relates loosely in characters and setting to the others, but can stand alone as well.  As with the others, the Read A Story, Change A Story benefit of royalties to enable real kids to write new endings still applies.  Hope you enjoy.  Available for pre-order at Amazon or New Growth Press.

You can link to the 2017 African Reading Challenge web site for more suggestions, and feel free to leave comments here on what your favorite African reads of this year might be.


Anonymous said...

I will share this with our book club. Different story: today at church. (Lake Forest- Davidson) was doing Summer Serve with infants. My co-worker is a rising sophomore at Duke. (Alyssa Marsh- on swim team), so I asked if she knew either of your kids. She said "No." Then I remembered that I would have a photo or two on your emails, and showed her. She immediately said, "Oh, I do know him". Small world in God's world. Bobbi Campbell

Hahs Household said...

Thanks! I just finished reading your first book to our kids. Another great series is Jugle Doctor by Paul White. It is set in Tanzania. We loved all of those too.